Tag Archives: North Kalimantan

Play, pray, or chase the buffalo?

Last year we visited villages in the Krayan district of North Kalimantan, a remote highland area close to the border with Sabah (Malaysia). We were fortunate to be invited to a Dayak Lundayeh wedding ceremony in the village of Terang Baru, near Long Bawan. These days the villagers are devout adherents of Protestant Christianity, but they continue to observe many of the unique cultural practices of their ancestors.

A lot of the rituals of the wedding entailed the exchange of gifts between the bride’s and groom’s families – in addition to giving countless practical household gifts to the happy couple. There were hand-plaited baskets, hats and sleeping mats, crockery, cooking pots and furniture, food and clothing.

But the biggest – and most valuable – gift was that of a large kerbau (buffalo), which the groom handed over to his new wife. Everyone from the village was there, watching the exchange with great interest – none more so than a young boy and girl who were enthralled by the buffalo.

As the traditional part of the ceremony was concluding, and the congregation prepared for Christian prayers, the buffalo was led away to pasture – with the two children following in close pursuit. You can imagine the excited conversation between them:

“Hurry up, let’s follow the buffalo and see where it goes!”

She: “Hang on, the prayers have started. We’d better stop.”

He: “Do we REALLY have to stop? The buffalo’s getting away!”

“OK then, let’s pray. The buffalo will just have to wait till we’ve finished!”

Karen, along with her colleague Paulus Kadok from Yayasan Mahakam Lestari, has written a wonderful article about the ‘Bridewealth of the Dayak Lundayeh‘, which was published late last year in Garland Magazine. Do have a look; it’s a really interesting read. Nice photographs, too…



Tane’ Olen

Two of the large and rather imposing trees in the Tane’ Olen forest upriver of Setulang, North Kalimantan, Indonesia. One (and possibly both) of them is a Yellow Meranti (Shorea faguetiana). They grow TALL – the biggest recorded one is 93m, found in nearby Sabah province of Malaysia).

Some people like to refer to the Tane’ Olen as the ‘Forbidden Forest’ – the name coming from a decision by the local Dayak Kenyah community of Setulang to prohibit extractive activities such as logging.

If it’s not ‘forbidden’, these trees were certainly difficult to get to: from Balikpapan it required two flights, one hour of driving, one hour in a ‘perahu’ canoe, and one hour on foot ascending a track up a steamy slippery ridge. Worth every bit.

Karen is standing beside Ran and Dongo from Setulang, who ensured that we got there (and got back) safely, and managed to patiently and knowledgeably field every one of our many questions…